Begging the Question: Circular Reasoning as a Tactic of Argumentation

By Douglas N. Walton | Go to book overview

This case involves a problematic instance of self-reference that is definitely circular. And it certainly does pose a practical, as well as a theoretical problem of argumentation generally. But it is not clear that Congress, the Supreme Court, or anyone else in the case has committed the fallacy of begging the question.

Hence it seems that there are circular arguments that are not necessarily fallacious, and even problematic and viciously circular arguments that are not, at any rate clearly, instances of the fallacy of begging the question. The main problem for the analysis of this fallacy then is to provide criteria that would usefully help a critic to arrive correctly at evaluative classification between those cases of allegedly circular argument where the fallacy of begging the question has occurred, and those cases where it has not. Judging by all the problems, paradoxes, and unanswered questions that have surfaced in this chapter, this will not be an easy job.


NOTES
1.
See the distinction between vicious and fallacious circles in section 9 of chapter one. A more extended analysis of the argument in case 1.3 can be found in Colwell ( 1989).
2.
So far, the exact source in Bentham, or other documentation of this attribution, has not been verified by the author's research.
3.
See Kapp ( 1942) and Evans ( 1977).
4.
Ibid.
5.
Here arises the burden of proof.
6.
See also Basu ( 1986) on the question of the interpretation of these doctrines of Aristotle.
7.
See Woods and Walton ( 1975b).
8.
See also Palmer ( 1981) on this issue of the number of premises.
9.
Ibid.
10.
At least it is the final one remarked on here. More recent articles will be dealt with in subsequent chapters.
11.
Note Hamblin's comment ( 1970, p. 33) that a vicious circle is one that involves "self-contradiction or self-defeat," like the Liar Paradox.
12.
Despite the title of Nicholas Rescher paper, "How Serious a Fallacy Is Inconsistency?" Argumentation 1 ( 1987): 303-16.

-33-

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Begging the Question: Circular Reasoning as a Tactic of Argumentation
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions in Philosophy ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Note xv
  • 1 - Origins, Preconceptions, and Problems 1
  • Notes 33
  • 2 - Contexts of Dialogue 35
  • Notes 85
  • 3 - Argument Diagramming 87
  • Notes 123
  • 4 - Shorter Case Studies 125
  • Notes 180
  • 5 - Longer Case Studies 183
  • Notes 212
  • 6 - Fallacies, Faults, Blunders, and Errors 215
  • Notes 246
  • 7 - Revising the Textbooks 249
  • Notes 283
  • 8 - A Theory of Begging the Question 285
  • Notes 325
  • Bibliography 327
  • Index 335
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